Sitting around the dinner table one of our daughters said, “We should have someone over to play Skip-Bo.” “Why not tomorrow night?” my husband asked. “Who should we invite?” I queried, “A family from school? What about that family we sat next to at the Orchestra Awards Night? You know, the Campbells?” “Yeah, Conner and Cathleen are nice,” my eldest agreed. “But Conner is a boy and Colleen is older than me,” my youngest piped.
Eventually it was decided. Before anyone could back down I was on the phone with Heather who I had met earlier that week at a school event. When I extended an invitation to join us for a game night, her only hesitation was what kind of game were we planning? She seemed to warm to the short and sweet part as I mentioned getting together from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. for a game and snacks. I held the line and my breath while Heather consulted her family. With relief I found myself giving directions trusting the Lord that both our families of five would have an endearing not enduring evening; guessing Heather was thinking something similar.
Stopping at Walgreen’s the next day, the girls ran in to do the shopping: popcorn, lemonade, strawberry licorice, root beer and vanilla ice cream for the root beer float finale. That’s my kind of no prep entertaining. At home the girls all chose a room on the first floor to dust and vacuum. I want them to learn that entertaining can be simple but at the same time there is usually some work involved.
As the time drew near for our guest’s arrival Mark and I shared one of our kitchen prayers for the Campbells. We prayed that they might feel at ease with us, that both families would heartily enjoy themselves, and that our great God would use the evening to draw this family to Himself.
I’ve been teaching Becoming A Contagious Christian (Millelberg, Strobel and Hybels/Zondervan), and it dawned on me that our family was throwing a Matthew Party. Remember how the Lord Jesus hung out at Matthew’s house to meet his friends? A Matthew party is simply a gathering “designed to mix our unchurched friends with some of our Christian friends to facilitate their interaction and do some relationship building” with the hope of eventually introducing these friends to Christ.
We all chatted a few minutes when our new friends arrived and then the kids took their drinks and snacks to sit outside for awhile. They had no trouble getting to know each other and their occasional laughter spilled over to the adults cheering us on in our own efforts at getting acquainted. We learned about our backgrounds and sought out commonalities. And then it was time for the game.
Mark and I chose a rousing game full of rules and penalties that our children are unfamiliar with to help all the kids feel like they were on the same playing field. We’d played this particular game with adults and young adults alike and knew it to provide much comic relief as an anecdote to the stress of new situations. The game was a hoot and once was enough. We visited over our root beer floats and the young people roasted marshmallows outside in the firepot and played some night games.
The Campbell’s gave us the gift of lingering over their goodbyes, and all the kids had that hungering look for more. As their eighth grade son slipped out the door, a copy of the game rules tucked under his arm he said, “Mrs. Seversen, I had a great time. Thank you for inviting us and we have to do this again.” Now, you could scratch that comment up to his enjoying his “harem” for the evening being the only male among five charming females but I’d like to think it was a remark prompted by the work of the Holy Spirit knitting his heart with ours, drawing him to the Father, and dousing him with the love of Christ Jesus.
Spontaneous invitations take the pressure off of us. We don’t have to entertain perfectly because there generally isn’t time. I think of it as worry free entertaining. With no time to fuss there is also no time to anticipate the worst. Spontaneity also gives us a glimpse into our children’s characters. Do they vie for attention, are they generous with their belongings, and how are they at taking the initiative in asking questions and offering suggestions for activities? And so we were doubly blessed that evening. We received the incredible privilege of introducing our kids’ classmates to a Christian home and we saw areas in our children’s lives to applaud and to mold. Why not plan your own Matthew party sometime soon?